Salmon Creek Trail

Los Padres National Forest, California

Elevation Gain6,063ft
Trailhead Elevation312ft
Elevation Min/Max312/3230ft
Elevation Start/End312/312ft

Salmon Creek Trail

Salmon Creek Trail is a hiking trail in Monterey County, California. It is within Silver Peak Wilderness and Los Padres National Forest. It is 5.3 miles long and begins at 312 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 10.9 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,063 feet. The Salmon Creek parking is near the trailhead. The Rest Area CA-1 parking and the Spruce Creek Camp and Estrella Camp sites can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Spruce Creek Trail and South Coast Ridge Road.

Salmon Creek Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"What could be more perfect than a hike that begins with a stunning waterfall, meandering through shady woodlands interrupted by open stretches for Pacific views before dropping you on the banks of a cool creek?"
Hiking & Backpacking: Big Sur (Wilderness Press)
Analise Elliot Heid
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"The Buckeye Trail offers some of the best day-hike and overnight options in the Silver Peak Wilderness. If you can arrange a shuttle vehicle, point-to-point trips include: (1) 1.5 miles to Soda Springs Trailhead via the Buckeye and Soda Springs Trails; (2) 7.9 miles to the Cruikshank Trailhead via the Buckeye and Cruikshank Trails; and (3) 8.4 miles to Alder Creek Camp via the Buckeye Trail. Regardless of your itinerary, Buckeye Camp is a highlight. Perched amid an open meadow, the camp is roomy enough for a group outing."
Day Hikes around Big Sur (Day Hike Books)
Robert Stone
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"The Salmon Creek Trail runs through the deep interior of the Silver Peak Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mountains. The trail connects the coastline with the 3,000-foot South Coast Ridge Road. This hike follows a short section at the beginning of the trail to the dynamic Salmon Creek Falls, where a tremendous volume of water plunges from three chutes. The beautiful waterfall drops more than 1 00 feet off the vertical rock face, crashing onto the rocks and pools below. A cool mist sprays over the mossy green streamside vegetation under a shady landscape of sycamores, maples, alders, and bay laurels."
"The Salmon Creek Trail begins at stunning Salmon Creek Falls and follows the southeast wall of the V-shaped canyon through forests and open slopes. There are far-reaching views up the canyon and down to the ocean. The trail, which cuts across the Silver Peak Wilderness to the South Coast Ridge Road, leads to Spruce Creek Camp and Estrella Camp, midway to the road. After Spruce Creek Camp, the cliffside path parallels Salmon Creek, overlooking endless cascades, small waterfalls, and pools. Estrella Camp sits in a large grassy meadow under the shade of oak, pine, and madrone trees."
"This route offers several day-hike and overnight options. Don’t miss the 0.2-mile round-trip day hike along Salmon Creek to Salmon Creek Falls. Though the falls are visible from the highway, be sure to brave the crowds on this popular trail. Another spectacular day-hike destination is Upper Salmon Creek Falls, 2.6 miles up the Salmon Creek Trail, between Spruce Creek and Estrella Camps. A short, steep unmarked spur leads down to the thundering falls, which cascade over large moss-covered boulders into an iridescent pool. Pause for an invigorating swim in spring and summer. Expect a quick dip, as water temperatures reach the high 50s Fahrenheit at best."

Salmon Creek Trail Trip Reports

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The falls and the area at the base of the falls are wonderful, and well worth the 26-mile drive from Cambria. Driving directions to the hike start point were perfect - hiking trail directions were inaccurate and confusing. Fork in trail is not marked with a sign and is a lot closer than 200 yards. More importantly, there is no “trail” down to base of falls. You must descend toward the sound of the falls, while picking your way around car sized to house sized boulders. Some routes look good until you learn that a giant bolder blocks the way. However, the overall effort is definitely rewarded when you reach the pools at the base of the falls.
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THe hike was just like the guide described. The experience is all about the falls and the beautiful canopy of trees and vegetation surrounding the area of the creek. There is a small wooden gate just a hundred yards after you begin. Don't take the trail to the left right after you go through the gate. We did and it just goes straight down to the creek and an almost impossible descent down to the creek through loose rock. Keep on the main path. You will hear the falls when you come to the corrrect path that veers left. We also explored some trails that are spread out above the falls and "found" a great little place where there's a deep pool of water and a grotto-like place to rest and just take in the area.

Salmon Creek Trail Photos

Trail Information

Los Padres National Forest
Nearby City
Silver Peak Wilderness
Los Padres National Forest Monterey District, 406 Mildred Ave., King City 93930; (831) 385-5434;; Big Sur Station, (831) 667-2315
Local Contacts
USGS Burro Mountain; Los Padres National Forest
Local Maps

Trail Log